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Infertility, Loss, Cesarean Birth, and PPD {A Mother’s Story of Two Births}

Infertility, Loss, Cesarean Birth, and PPD {A Mother’s Story of Two Births}

{Editor’s Note: This story comes to us from Rachel. This is the story of infertility, loss, and two Cesarean births – one which was not empowering, and a second that was positive and healing. This is also the story of two experiences with Postpartum Depression and the effects on bonding and motherhood.}

My story starts almost five years ago, it was our wedding day and after a few months of me trying to convince my husband, Pat, we were ready to start trying to have children, he finally agreed. We lived in the small northern town of Wawa, Ontario. It is a beautiful place, a wonderful place to raise a child.

My husband was starting out his career as a police officer and I was working at a daycare. Things couldn’t be better. We tried for approximately 6 months and nothing happened. We did not have a family doctor there, so discussing any fertility issues just didn’t happen.

Pat was given the opportunity to join the Police Force in another town in Jan 2008, so we embarked on our new journey. Although Pat is originally from this town, we were restarting our life in this new town. I was more than happy to move where he grew up, where his family is.

We continued to try, but nothing. After being referred to a specialist, Pat and I both did various blood work and tests. Tests revealed that I suffer from Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome which could sometimes lead to infertility. I was crushed. I wanted to be a mother. How could I explain this to my husband? I would not be able to give him any children; all he ever wanted was to have children, to be a dad.

After talking with the Ob/GYN he had given me a prescription for Clomid, a fertility drug known to help women with PCOS. After taking it the first month and going for more blood work, the doctor was optimistic that this would work!

Fast forward three more months, I found myself pregnant. It was a few days before Valentine’s Day in 2009. So I figured I would wait to tell my husband; I bought a bib that said “I love daddy”, some little booties, a rattle and left a positive pregnancy test in a box. My husband has never liked early gifts, but I just couldn’t wait! I told him that he needed it the day before and that it was so important.

When he opened the box he had the most confused look on his face, he did not know what a pregnancy test looked like and didn’t realize what I was giving him until I said I was pregnant. We both shared tears and we so thrilled to finally have this happen for us after trying for 2 years.

I had some morning sickness, just nausea really. I was excited because if you felt nauseous that was a good sign. I had an early ultrasound to date the pregnancy; it was so amazing to see the little life inside me, the heartbeat of this new being that my husband and I created! I was helping this little baby grow. We told everyone, we were so ecstatic to finally have the chance to be parents! Everyone was very so happy.

I was about 11 weeks and had very, very lite spotting and no other symptoms. I called my midwife Amy and told her and she said she would be right over to see if we could hear a heartbeat although it was still early. I told her it was okay and that I would see if it continues, I really didn’t think that anything was happening.

I had no other symptoms of miscarriage, and this couldn’t happen to me! That night I started to have back pain and some mild cramping, I finally told my husband, who tends to be a worry wart. He immediately told me to go to emergency room. I did reluctantly; something like this was not going to happen to us.

They did some blood work and a pregnancy test and told me they would call me as soon as a spot opened up for an ultrasound. I went to work that morning, told my boss that I would need a couple hours off but I would be back after my ultrasound. She insisted I take the day off, I was kind of mad because I didn’t want to miss work. I was fine… I really was sure nothing was happening.

Going to the ultrasound I felt fine, the spotting and back pain were very little. Then the ultrasound tech told me I was not allowed to see anything. That’s when I got nervous. I then had to go and wait again to get my results.

I called my husband to let him know that I was waiting; he asked if I wanted him there, I said no that I was fine. Everything was fine, he had just finished a night shift and he hadn’t had any sleep and was supposed to work that night. He showed up five minutes later! I am so thankful he did!

We waited in the little room; the doctor came in with the report and had to leave but left the report. I looked at it and couldn’t understand a thing. As I am looking at it the doctor walked back in and asked if I understood anything. Of course I didn’t, the page was all these numbers and abbreviations, we sat down and he just came out and said there was no heartbeat.

We were crushed. We saw the heartbeat before; how could it no longer be there? Why would this happen to us? We both grieved at the loss of our unborn baby; we went from being on top of the world to the bottom of a muddy pit.

Of course I saw the specialist again and he just said sometimes these things happen. (These things weren’t supposed to happen to me.) I started Clomid again as soon as I could, I needed to be pregnant again. The month came and went and no pregnancy… I couldn’t do this. You are always let down every time you start your period and you are reminded that you lost that baby.

I took the Clomid another month and told my husband that if I did not get pregnant this month I didn’t want to try again. It was too hard. When the time came for my period; it wasn’t there… I reluctantly took a pregnancy test. I was pregnant!

I didn’t tell anyone, not even my husband… I wasn’t sure if it was worth telling my husband. I couldn’t carry a child, so why bother him with the grief if we lost another? I would do it alone. He came home that night and I felt extremely guilty but did not tell him. I couldn’t keep it in after 3 days I just sat beside him and showed him a pregnancy test.

I didn’t say a thing, we hugged, and I think we both felt the same way, happy but very scared. We kept this pregnancy a secret from everyone until I was 4 months. Everyone was overjoyed. We were terrified that something was going to happen, that this baby would be taken away from us.

The pregnancy was great, no complications, everything was wonderful. At the end of my pregnancy, all I wanted was to hold my baby. I felt like a whale, like I couldn’t possibly grow any larger. At 40weeks 4days I went to see a naturopath to have acupuncture to try to induce labor, I was fed up!

The day went on and at some point my water broke. At first I was in denial, but was getting contractions every 5-8 minutes. We went to the hospital because I was Group B Step positive and needed antibiotics during labor.

Contractions continued every 3-4 minutes for 12 hours. My midwife Amy checked my cervix, I was only 1cm. I was devastated, I couldn’t possibly go any longer. The pain was intense and my hopes of having a natural labor were gone. I requested an epidural.

At this point my labor had stalled and I was having some relief. Once the anesthesiologist came and left I finally felt great. I tried to rest a bit knowing I had a long time to go but then the pains started again. My epidural was not working or strong enough but I continued to pull through, breathing through each contraction focusing on what was to come, my little baby!

Contractions continued for another 14 hours, Amy and Pat right by my side the whole time. After being there with me for 26 hours Amy had to transfer my care to the on-call OB. As soon as she told me this, I asked for a C-section. I couldn’t possibly go on without her and I was physically exhausted, emotionally exhausted, and disappointed.

At this point everything becomes fuzzy. I had given up and laid there in the hospital bed waiting to be rolled into the OR. When they pulled my little boy out of me I was so drowsy, I just remember them saying it’s a boy, and then he was gone and I went to recovery.

I was in recovery for a while and when I was allowed to go into my own room to see Maksim he was tired and didn’t want to nurse. I was feeling sick, tired and sore, so he went to the nursery. My husband kissed me goodnight and that was it.

In Recovery

Maksim was brought to me in the morning and I looked at him like he was a stranger. Who was this child and what was I supposed to do with him? As time went on I developed postpartum depression.

I truly believe that it was because I didn’t have a natural birth and was ripped of the opportunity to bond with him right after having him. All I wanted was to be able to nurse him, knowing that this was the best I could give him.

With the PPD, I had given up on breastfeeding and pumped instead. I thought that this would help but it didn’t, I felt like I wasn’t able to bond with my baby. I pumped for 5-6 months and quit. I still feel bad to this day for doing this but am grateful for the breast milk he did receive.

There were many days I just did not want to be a mother. I never felt the urge to hurt my child but I didn’t want to be around him. I wanted my old life back; I wanted someone else to take care of him. I saw a counselor and this helped a bit, I went back to work and things seemed to look up.

Maksim was almost a year old and my husband mentioned wanting to try for another. At that time I only wanted another baby to experience a vaginal birth, to nurse my child and to be a mom. Again I needed to go on fertility drugs as my cycle was not regular and I was not ovulating. After two months of the Clomid I was pregnant.

I called my husband right away, he was training and couldn’t come home so I told him over the phone. You could hear the happiness in his voice. This time we waited about a week and started to tell close family and friends, then really made it known to everyone at 12 weeks.

I still wasn’t sure about wanting another but the pregnancy was here I just went with it. This pregnancy was so different, I had a lot of morning sickness that lasted all day, at 14 weeks I had unexplained bleeding. We had emergency ultrasounds but all seemed okay.

At 20 weeks the baby was showing two cysts on his brain. This really worried us; we didn’t want to have something wrong with the baby. At 30 weeks the ultrasound tech said he was a really big boy and that the cysts were gone! We were thrilled.

At 40weeks my water broke, I did not have any contractions. My sister and I went shopping as I continued to leak fluid all day! I walked and walked and walked and still did not get any contractions. The OB did not want to induce because of my prior C-section, I should have fought for it but for some reason I didn’t.

After 24 hours of ruptured membranes I was given another Cesarean. This was different! My midwife Amy was in the room with me, she let my husband hold the baby close to me right after he was taken out, I saw him for some time before they took him away.

I wasn’t in recovery long this time and my little Felix – 7lbs 6oz – was brought to me as soon as I entered my room. I was able to have skin to skin time with him and he (with help from Amy) latched on no problem. My doula, Kayleigh was there to capture those moments and to assist with breastfeeding when Amy left.

Baby Felix

What a different experience! What a positive experience. I healed so much faster and was so happy to be a mom. Now fast forward three months – I still long for that vaginal birth, but feel very blessed to have two healthy and happy children.

Having a positive birth experience the second time around has made me love being a mother and appreciate the little things so much more. That first smile, those 3am feedings and when your toddler says “Je t’aime maman” – you couldn’t ask for more!

{An update from Mom: “My little one is now 15 months, I got PPD again but I am on top of it this time and am happy to report that my little one just weaned himself…. Nursing really helped the PPD and this time was easier because I could recognize the signs and asked for help right away.”}

The Family

A Letter To Our Child {An IVF Journey 2006 To 2013}

A Letter To Our Child {An IVF Journey 2006 To 2013}

“We shared our trying to conceive journey through Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) at City IVF and love the team. And after 6 cycles, 5 stims, and a 10 week scare, our dream came true. We had spotting to full on bleeds and this little girl hung on tight to her Mum for which I will be forever grateful! I hope my history/story/journey gives someone the hope the need it really makes me believe magic does happen and miracles are real.” – Linda, of Family Capers

This is our journey little one, one we are sharing together  – you, mummy and daddy – as we help you make your way into this world. We love you and know that you will make it to us in time. This is a journey that just us can share.

[As an embryo – you were the strong one]

IVF embryos ready for transfer

So where did it all start my darling?

Well we knew quite early that you would be conceived by IVF for a number of reasons.

For me I always knew that assisted conception maybe on the card for me after ovarian cysts and emergency surgery at 19. Then I met the love of my life my darling husband your father and the fate was sealed for us as he had a vasectomy much earlier in life for his own reasons.

So in 2005 with our dreams of the white picket fence and family Daddy and I were married and committed ourselves to the IVF journey.

This is when my research started I read everything I could find on the web started talking to GP’s about our journey. The hardest part is that we had to wait 12 months until our Private Health insurance would cover us for our IVF procedures. So we planned our wedding were happily married and moved to Qld to start our new life as a family.

Our first step in this IVF journey for you was in 2006 and I was hopeful and maybe I was naive. I went through every day of injections and planning with excitement and fear that you our baby was on its way. For me it had been a long wait for the 12 months to pass and I was excited and happy to meet you.

My first appointment is a bit of a haze I remember them telling me I was young and that falling pregnant should not be a problem for me so again up when the excitement this should be easy one try for me and our baby will be here I will be pregnant for our first wedding anniversary! Off I skipped to the chemist with my script for the pill (we were doing a down reg cycle) and looked forward to the day I could take pill number 1.

The day came and I started my pill excited to take them and happy I started to buy baby books to assist in my journey my thirst for knowledge on pregnancy was to others a little unnerving I suppose. I read and wrote to myself excited about the journey the you and I was about to take. Then Syernal day came this is the drug I like to call the morning sickiness stimulator, for me the side effects were nauesa and headaches. But this was all worth it as my baby is on its way.

Injections were next and that was when I felt your energy in the embryos growing inside me swollen and tender my tummy became round and cute as if I was a few months pregnant and we were on our way to egg pick up.

The egg pick up came and we got 12 healthy eggs which became 6 embryos and I could feel your energy as they transferred 1 embryo back. Time passed and we waited the two weeks but you were not going to be rushed…

Our ICSI and Pregnancy Journey, 2006-2009:
July 06 – First Fertility Specialist (FS) Visit
Sept 06- First Estrogen Replacement Therapy (ERT) and embryo transfer (ET)… big fat negative (BFN) – 5 embies to frozen
Nov 06 – Cancelled frozen embryo transfer (FET) – none survived the thaw (heartache and not knowing why)
Jan 07 – FS put me back on the pill bleed for 6 weeks due for ET in March but decided to change FS
Mar 07 – Visit with Dr Das he and his team are excellent
April 07 – Full ERT and ET – 1 embie and transferred
July 07 – Feng Shui specialist prepped house for baby started alternative hunt for symbols and rituals
Aug 07 – Planning visit moved to 12th September
Sept 07 – 12th September planning visit for October Cycle and Baby
Oct 07 – Early miscarriage at 5 weeks (disappointing, but 1 step closer)
March 08 – Laparoscopy: endometriosis found and gone, now we have answers
April/May – BFN Stim Cycle – No Embies Left
June – Started the Pill for July cycle
July – Operation Make Dear Husband a Daddy Success!!!! Big Fat Positive!!
12th September 08 – Baby Tigger gave us a major scare!!!!!!!!!!!!!! But just a major clot.
16th September – meeting with FS and bubs was there! Yay!!!!
17th November – 20 Week Scan… we are expecting a Girl
15th Jan – 1 Hour GTT is 8.1… 2 hour test here we come
17th Jan – Midwife visit and she is moving very well, just likes a weird position!!!
19th Jan 09 – GTT is neg
9th Feb – Booked C/S for the 31st March
31st March 2009 – Miss Charlotte Arrives!

birth after infertility

And now … 2013 … When you know enough is enough …

A few weeks ago Hubby and I decided that we were not jumping on the IVF wagon again. After 3 years of hoping to TTC again I was in a position I was not expecting, I had more reasons to say enough is enough rather than to try again.

I have an amazing girl who I love to share all my spare time with, and 2 businesses that are growing at a rapid rate. I am full. I knew I was content, and enough was enough.

I did however grieve the loss of hope and of my TTC journey and dreams. And I can say I am still getting over it, but a lot stronger, wiser and healthier for the decision to be happy with my family of 3.


family and IVF baby

Unwatermarked photo by Kate Deagan of Studio K8

 

 

The Heart of Stillbirthday.com

The Heart of Stillbirthday.com

stillbirthdayThere is something on my mind and in my heart that I must let flow out of my fingers on onto this small blog post to share with all of you. The heart of Stillbirthday.com.

I can not even remember the first time I had contact with Heidi from stillbirthday.com, but I know that she has forever changed a part of me. In running Birth Without Fear we obviously deal with pregnancy and birth. With that comes loss. When I first began BWF (and I was pregnant), I didn’t know how to handle that. I hurt every time I read a loss story or one of our moms went through a miscarriage and stillbirth, but I didn’t know how to share loss within Birth Without Fear.

I began to see and learn that women who experience loss and try to share their stories were being shunned in a horrible way in the online community world. Not to mention, in their daily lives. The things that are said to loss moms are usually not ideal and they feel they can not find support or grieve or heal.

Then came stillbirthday.com and Heidi Faith. There are other wonderful loss support resources out there, but it was through Heidi that I learned how to becoming inclusive and include loss moms within Birth Without Fear Community and in a way where everyone felt safe. It took time, but it is doable. Being sensitive to our pregnant mamas while validating and sharing the journey of our loss moms is so special. Not to mention the incredible amount of resources stillbirthday.com offers. Things I would never think of.

And guess what? More moms experience loss than you would think. It is heartbreaking. What do you say, what do you not say, how do you validate a mom’s loss without internalizing it? For me, Heidi has been instrumental in helping me learn how to do this. Her heart is truly incredible. She serves God and through Him, serves women. Women who don’t have a voice, are shunned, alone, scared, and hurting.

Recently I’ve had two close friends experience loss. One was 18 weeks pregnant with her beautiful son.  The other a close friend and very recently lost her baby. I can not begin to describe the support Heidi brought to my friend(s), but also me. The friend of the loss mom. To know how to support a mother when going through the hardest thing she has ever been through…well, I couldn’t have done it without Heidi.

Through Heidi’s, and now all the support people with stillbirthday.com’s support,  I have learned how to listen to my soul, my heart and humbly support loss moms. It’s not me. I don’t know what I’m doing. It’s through the Lord and through the support of Heidi. I have learned to grieve, support and heal with the constant of this amazing person. I can confidently share stillbirthday.com with loss mothers and know they will be so loved and taken care of. That…is priceless.

stillbirthday 1

Here’s the thing. I am a loss mom. I don’t talk about it. I avoid it. Suppress it. My husband knew it, but I didn’t want to…know.

It is through Heidi’s gentle words at the right moments that I am able to admit it to myself. That when I was bleeding and clotting so heavy…and hurting so deeply on the bathroom floor… that it was not a 3 month post partum period I wanted it to be. That I lost a sweet baby who now waits for me in Heaven. Through the support that I have found with her, I have learned that there is part of my soul who relates, empathizes and understands. We are all connected more than we realize.

If you have experienced a loss, if you know a woman who has or is, please give them the gift of this amazing resource. I plan on participating in their next Birth and Bereavement Doula training that begins in August. If your heart leads you in that direction also, you can learn more here.

Military and Loss {I Am Strong}

Military and Loss {I Am Strong}

I am strong because at the age of 18, I went through about 8 months of my first pregnancy alone while my husband was serving our country in Iraq.

I am strong because I was induced at 38 weeks pregnant, while my husband was home on R&R, and after 10+ hours of labor, I delivered our daughter via Cesarean because I wouldn’t dilate past a 5.

I am strong because after giving birth, I was in the hospital for 5 days because one of my lungs started to collapse, and even though it hurt like hell to recover, I pushed myself and walked out of there.

I am strong because after I left the hospital, my incision became infected to the point where both my feet and legs were so swollen that I couldn’t walk. I was in bed for days and my husband helped me heal the infection naturally.

I am strong because two weeks after our daughter was born, I had to see my husband off, as he returned to Iraq.

I am strong because 16 days after my husband got back to Iraq, and just two days after our daughter turned one month old, I became a 19 year old military widow when my husband died of a massive heart attack.

I am strong because I raised a smart, compassionate, beautiful little girl for almost two years by myself.

I am strong because I have chosen to rise instead of falling after such an incredible loss, to keep moving forward after facing such a horrible heartbreak, and to live and love every single day for him.

militarymom

 

“Infertility is a funny beast.” | Thoughts On Infertility, Loss, Pregnancy And Motherhood

“Infertility is a funny beast.” | Thoughts On Infertility, Loss, Pregnancy And Motherhood

Thank you Sarah, for sharing your thoughts and experiences.

Infertility is a funny beast; it affects your life in so many different ways.

We had issues conceiving our first child, spent almost 30 months trying to conceive and had begun the testing process that had showed up a few issues. Miraculously I found out I was pregnant only two days prior to our IVF consult with the fertility specialist. At the time we were the first of our friends and close family to have a child so it was all new and wondrous and exciting for everyone involved.

Our second pregnancy was a lot different to the first and I put that down entirely to infertility issues. By the time we fell pregnant with our second child, our friends were having their firsts. Four friends, all falling pregnant within a very short time frame, yet here we were struggling after a year. Again. The pregnancy announcements were hard, but the avoidance of certain friends was harder, they didn’t know how to talk with us about their pregnancies.

Our second pregnancy, our daughter, was conceived on our first cycle of IVF. The pregnancy was easy, but I found so many people treated me differently. I asked a coworker why she treated me differently compared with our first pregnancy and she simply stated that it was because this was an IVF baby, so it was different. It made no sense to me, but people perceived IVF babies as more fragile.

[IVF Medication]IVF Medication

Fast-forward and our daughter was my second emergency caesarean. I was devastated. My baby was artificially conceived and artificially came into the world. There was nothing natural in her conception or delivery and I had to get something back, so I breastfed her. The plan was to breastfeed our first as well, but nature had other ideas as my body went into shock after a very long and difficult labour and subsequent emergency caesarean.

The only reason I continued breastfeeding was our infertility struggles. THE ONLY REASON. There were so many times I wanted to quit in the first six months. She was a big baby (9lb 14oz at birth) and she was insatiable. I fed two hourly for six months. I dealt with some serious breastfeeding issues, but instead of giving in, like so many had recommended, I plodded along. My baby had to such a medical, impersonal beginning thanks to our fertility issues that I had to give her something natural. In the end, she breastfed until she was 15 months old and I was proud that I stuck with it.

breastfeeding at 10 months after IVF and emergency cesarean

We lost our third (natural) pregnancy to miscarriage at ten weeks. Again, people’s perceptions astounded me. I got comments telling me that obviously I wasn’t meant to have a baby naturally (despite my first son) and that it didn’t matter because we had embryos frozen & in storage. Charming, right?

Our fourth pregnancy was the result of a frozen embryo transfer, the embryo created at the same time as our daughter. We had a few scares in the beginning and because I had invested so much, time, money, love, I was terrified of losing this little being as well. I was on bed rest and refused to move, exactly as I was directed. I couldn’t bear to face another loss and our chances of having another pregnancy were already diminished with only two embryos left in storage.

The baby, our son, arrived by scheduled caesarean and again I chose to breastfeed him to give him something as natural as possible. At the time of writing, he is 13 months old and still breastfed, despite a postnatal depression diagnosis and subsequent medication.

Even though we have now completed our family I find that infertility still haunts us.

My children are no different to any others, they push buttons, they don’t sleep, they argue with each other and I am just the same as any other mum. There is a difference though. Having struggled to conceive all three and using IVF for two, I find it difficult to complain about even the most normal of childhood behaviour. I feel like I need to be grateful for everything they do, even the bad stuff, because I am lucky enough to have them.

I had a conversation with a customer at work one day during my last pregnancy. He asked how many kids I had & when I told him this pregnancy was my third he joked asking if I knew what caused it. My response was, “yes, handing over thousands of dollars to my fertility doctor”… If you can’t laugh about it, you’d cry!

I Am Strong {Twin-To-Twin Transfusion Syndrome}

I Am Strong {Twin-To-Twin Transfusion Syndrome}

[Trigger Warning: This post contains a story of loss]

I am strong because my husband and I conceived twins during my third pregnancy (our 2nd together).

I am strong because we found out at 20 weeks that it was twins. I had a gut feeling that it was twins all along. They had confirmed that they were identical twin boys.

I am strong because they told us to expect a call from the hospital.

I am strong because at 24w 3d, we learned that our boys had stage 3 twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome. I was in complete shock and didn’t know what to do. They gave me the first set of steroids and I screamed in pain as my heart shattered.

I am strong because the next day we drove two hours to a hospital to have a “pre-op” for the laser surgery to try and correct the TTTS. Things were looking to be in our favour.

I am strong because the next day (24w 5d), we drove back to the hospital for the surgery. My spirits were high.

I am strong because things took a turn for the worse. The doctor discovered that our boys umbilical cords were pretty much growing out of the same spot. They had not discovered this on all of the scans that were done. Our doctor, who specialized in TTTS cases, said that he has only ever in his career seen a case like this maybe once or twice.

My husband was strong, too. The doctor told us, while I was on the operating table, that we had to a) sever the smaller baby’s cord to save our recipient baby; or b) don’t do anything and lose both. While I screamed and had to be told that I had to lay still or else I would be restrained, my husband made the ultimate decision to have our  smaller boy’s cord severed. He and I had to decide within only a few minutes time. We could not go and think about this and come back.

We are strong because we got to watch our little boy on the monitor one last time.

We are also strong because 4 weeks later, my water broke and I was admitted to the hospital. I stayed there for 2 weeks on bed rest, baking our survivor (2 hrs away), while my husband held down our home and cared for our other two children.

We are strong because at 30w 5d, our surviving son was born. He weighed 3lbs 9oz. We also got to spend precious time with our little angel. Our survivor stayed in the nicu for one month. He will be 2 in July.

We are strong because even though we lost a son and went through hell, we tried for another baby. We discovered that we were expecting on our angel’s angelversary! As scary as it was to be pregnant after a loss, we welcomed our rainbow baby on Feb. 6, 2013. A girl.

[23w 5d (about a week before our loss) – I was measuring close to 40 weeks due to high volumes of fluid

twin belly picture[Our angel a week or so after he passed. To me, it looks as if he is smiling.]

ultrasound after loss [Our survivor shortly after he was born.]

premature baby surviving twin

{I Am Strong} The Loss of a Twin

{I Am Strong} The Loss of a Twin

*Trigger Warning: This post is about loss*

I am strong because at the age of 32 I became pregnant with twins. I was super excited and scared at the same time. Early in the pregnancy I found out that Baby B wasn’t doing well. As I started getting further along I went to specialist to find more out. My Baby B “girl … Emma Rae” was diagnosed with Fetal Hydrops. I was told she wouldn’t make it past 27 weeks conception.

Baby A, my Boy Noah Braylin, was doing wonderful but keeping close eye on him as well.

Emma lost her heart beat at 21 weeks conception. I was heart broken. But I was strong because I knew I had a healthy baby boy still growing inside me.

I had to carry Emma full term to keep Noah healthy and safe. And on April 23, 2011… 5 1/2 hours of labor out came a healthy baby boy 8 lbs and 21 inches long. My 10 year old daughter was super excited to be a big sister finally!

I am strong because I know God isn’t going to give me nothing I can’t handle. My Baby Girl is cremated and sits high on a shelf. I think about her often, but am very blessed I have her brother here with me today.

loss, stillbirth

Together as a Family, Part III

Together as a Family, Part III

This is the third in a five-part series about loss and healing, shared by Shannon from Brisbane, AU. Yesterday, she shared about the grief and despair she felt during and after her third miscarriage. Today, she writes about the fears that arose during her next pregnancy, and her decision to pursue midwifery care. Check back tomorrow to hear the first part of her son Jasper’s birth story!

“Several months later, we conceived again, only to experience spotting at six weeks. I felt such dread that this pregnancy was to end just as the others had. My doctor sent me in for a scan, and the young sonographer had the task of telling us that there was a sac which looked the right size, but no sign of a foetus, let alone a heartbeat. I was devastated, and was not even remotely consoled by her suggestion that it could just be a little too early to see anything.

My regular doctor was not available to discuss this with us, so instead, an annoyingly optimistic doctor I’d never met before advised me to book in for a scan in a week and see if the sonographer was right. The next seven days passed slowly, and the ever-present spotting reminded me that the odds of this pregnancy being successful were slim.

I was convinced that this was going to be my fourth miscarriage. I felt sick with dread and tried to prepare myself for the inevitable, but couldn’t begin grieving since I felt so in limbo without a definitive scan. I tried to listen to my body, but all I could hear was fear and doubt. Jeremy remained positive since we had been told a number of times that spotting early on can be perfectly ok and continually assured me that he was confident this would all work out.

We made our way into the Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit at the Brisbane Mater Hospital. I had visited this unit for two of my miscarriages, and as amazing as the nurses & doctors had been, I felt sick knowing that we were once again returning.

The sonographer began the scan, and within a matter of seconds uttered the words ‘there’s your baby’s heartbeat’. I looked at my husband and burst into tears. He kissed my forehead and in the nicest possible way said ”I told you so, I knew it would be ok.”

I was still so anxious that something would go wrong again. I didn’t trust my body, and I found it very hard to become excited and begin to connect with this baby. I had a page of positive affirmations I read aloud several times a day. I tried to stay busy and tried so hard to project positivity, as I knew this would be the best thing for our baby, and I knew that worrying was a pointless exercise – what will be will be. But it was challenging to align what I knew with how I felt.

39 weeks copy

I had several early scans to reassure myself that the baby was still alive and growing – this helped a lot to make it seem more real and as proof that there really was a baby growing inside me. When I got to 13 weeks, I was finally able to relax. I had gotten through the hardest part – my body had held on tight to this baby, and I now considered myself to have just as much chance of a successful pregnancy as anyone else. I allowed myself to start looking forward, to enjoy being pregnant.

We applied to participate in the ‘Midwifery Group Practice’, also at the Mater. This practice is a public hospital initiative and it is free to participate in it. Each expectant mother is allocated to a primary midwife, who is part of a team of four midwives. All appointments, except for one with an obstetrician at 16 weeks, are spent with this team, as well as with other mothers due around the same time. You are able to get to know the team, and discuss anything and everything to do with the birth, so that when it comes time to deliver your baby, you know the people who are helping you through, and they know your birth preferences.

The only real criteria for participating in this program are that your pregnancy is considered low-risk (which mine was since the spotting was so early on), and that you intend to have a non-medicated labour. Pain relief is of course available at the hospital, but the midwives want to work with you before and during your labour to ensure you are aware of ways to deal with the pain, remain active to help your labour progress and avoid as much intervention as possible.

We were allocated a midwife named Jo, and part way through she started to job-share with another lovely midwife called Karen. I spent my pregnancy researching active birthing techniques, reading numerous birth stories (I particularly enjoyed the ‘psychedelic’ stories in Ina May Gaskin’s ‘Spiritual Midwifery’, along with the empowering stories on Birth Without Fear). I talked through my many questions with my midwives, as well as lots of mothers I know, to get as much information as possible to help me feel prepared for the birth. To face it with positivity, not fear.”

on holiday 25weeks copy

Shannon is a Brisbane-based family photographer specializing in unique, natural portraits. Her work can be seen at langbecker.com.au.

Together as a Family, Part II

Together as a Family, Part II

This is the second in a five-part series about loss and healing, a story shared by Shannon from Brisbane, AU. Yesterday, she shared about her first two miscarriages. Today she writes about coping through them, and her next. Check back tomorrow to hear how she worked through the fears that arose when she conceived – and found spotting – again.

“One thing that many people said to us was “At least you know you can conceive”. I understand that people generally like to find the positives in any difficult situation, but at the time I found this to be of little comfort. I felt that for us, conception was the easy part, and if we did have problems conceiving, they could probably be worked out with medical intervention. But problems carrying a baby to term seemed so much more insurmountable, and there was really very little that could be done for us if testing didn’t provide information as to why it was happening.

We soon found a lovely doctor who was an expert in multiple miscarriages. After numerous tests which didn’t give us any more information, he was still able to reassure us that our situation was considered reasonably common and that there was a very good chance that we would be more successful next time.

Next time happened about five or six months later. We were pleased, but I had to focus much more on keeping calm and trying to be positive. I was a bundle of nerves and every little twinge or sign I analysed and agonised over. I had an early scan solely to help ease my anxiety, and we were so thrilled to see a tiny flickering heartbeat. This was the first time we’d had a positive scan and we hoped that it meant this time would be different.

Five days later, at about nine weeks, I had some spotting. I went straight in for another scan. There was no heartbeat. We were devastated. I remember sitting in the room after the technician had left and sobbing into Jeremy’s chest asking “Why? Why is this happening to us again?”

The doctors were able to discover from testing that this baby had a genetic condition called Edward’s Syndrome. I felt somehow comforted knowing the reason for this third loss, and that the cause wasn’t a fundamental fault in my body. When I called the hospital to get the results of the testing, the nurse was reading through my file, and casually mentioned that this baby was a girl. This information, mentioned so offhandedly, was the hardest thing for me to deal with. Knowing the sex gave this baby an identity, and allowed me to imagine more clearly what might have been, and what we had lost. I had to grieve for a little girl who will never be, not just the vague idea of a baby who might have been.

Our hearts were aching, and the roller-coaster of emotions over the last 18 months had permeated our whole lives. I cried at the drop of a hat, and as happy as I was for friends who were having babies, I cried when I was alone for the desperation I felt to experience what they were experiencing. And I cried for the realisation that we may never have our own baby. I started to attempt to deal with the fact that just maybe I would never be able to birth my own child. I really didn’t know how many times I could go through this pain. Jeremy was a rock for me in these dark times – he was feeling the same things as me, but was also supporting and comforting me, and continually reassuring me that he still held out hope that this would work for us one day.”

39 weeks with Jeremy copy

Shannon is a Brisbane-based family photographer specializing in unique, natural portraits. Her work can be seen at langbecker.com.au.

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